Rightmove’s ‘abusive’ relationship with agents has broken down, says City analyst

Rightmove’s legacy is on the “brink of demise”, a new note to investors from a bank has said.

Jefferies has set Rightmove’s share price target at 500p, well under its current 620p.

It said that its rating is not about competition but “the breakdown of a relationship”.

It goes on: “Rightmove long ago departed its agency-backed agency roots, leveraged its first-mover status, drove the wave of secular migration to digital marketing and has built what is today a massive lead on user traffic.

“This huge gravitational pull has kept UK estate agents in an orbit of inexorable price rises that long ago outstripped any increased functionality of the platform.

“This schism is now being exposed.”

The report by Jefferies, which initiates its coverage of Rightmove, to investors says that it sees a high risk of sustained agency churn.

It says: “It is really only the agent’s fear of losing an instruction from not being on Rightmove that holds back the churn.

“The greatest threat to Rightmove is therefore collective action across the estate agency industry to communally break free of what has been described as ‘an abusive relationship’.”

The report says that protesting agents could move to OnTheMarket or Zoopla, “despite their shortcomings”.

The Jefferies report forecasts that the number of agency branches subscribing to Rightmove will drop to just under 16,000 (15,978) in 2022, down from a high of 17,626 in 2017.

The report also says that Rightmove helps save agents money on a number of routine tasks and that the consumer experience of Rightmove is “undoubtedly excellent”.

Jefferies also looks at two new competitors, Rummage4Property, and PropertyMutual, commenting that “disrupting an incumbent portal is very hard”, but says that conditions are “ripe” for existing competitors Zoopla and OnTheMarket.

It says that so far OnTheMarket has had mixed success and still “not made a big dent in Rightmove’s and Zoopla’s supremacy”.

Of Zoopla, the report says that new owners Silver Lake have given the management team a “freer hand to set and execute on strategy”: however, there is still a “massive gap” between Zoopla and Rightmove.

Jefferies has previously advised Zoopla.

 

 

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52 Comments

  1. GeorgeOrwell

    What we all know!    
     
    It’s a damning word – “abusive”, however it absolutely gets to the heart of Rightmove’s business attitude towards Agents. 
    The cracks are appearing, the walls are shaking. 2020 may be Rightmove’s Year for all the wrong reasons. 
    i got their “20 Years Booklet” in my office yesterday and threw it in the bin. An utter disgrace to laud itself with a Commerative Book!!!
    Has Rightmove penned its own Obituary  
     
     
     

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    1. NewsBoy

      Exactly! 500p may well look over optimistic before too long. As this is a time polls I wonder whether PIE might be able to set up a poll of agents to see the level of satisfaction and, more importantly the level of unhappiness amongst the fee paying agents who keep the Wrongmove executives and shareholders in clover. The only problem may well be that 1* would be more than 90% would want to give.

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    2. Bless You

      On the market now need to act. City by city. Get the agents together and get them to swing to zoopla an o.nm.

      Yes you will get Muppet owners who’ve been in the business since making £££ in the building society boom.

       

      Ignore them. They aren’t playing the same game.

       

      It’s time.

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  2. Ostrich17

    More iceberg warnings – will the ship’s Capt. take heed or order full steam ahead?

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    1. NewsBoy

      No, just jump ship, in the same way the PurpleBricks lot did. Over the hills with the money and leave others to clear up the mess before the final collapse 

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  3. scruffy

    Finally, a financial analyst has read the tea leaves correctly and realises the party’s coming to an end. Spread the word! Thousands can be freed from this tyranny. Let 2020 be the year we turn our back on such naked greed and exploitation.

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  4. Ouch18

    They’ve been a noose around Agents necks for long enough with their disgraceful pricing and attitude!

    Karma will bite very soon, which will see those cocky little ‘Area Managers’ in the dole que and any of the remaining gobshites begging for our business!!

    Bring on that day!!!

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  5. revilo

    “The greatest threat to Rightmove is therefore collective action across the estate agency industry to communally break free of what has been described as ‘an abusive relationship”

    Wasn’t it called OnTheMarket? Oh, yeah, they let us down!

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    1. NewsBoy

      You may not be happy with OTM but it still represents the best way out if this – maybe with a bright, new, popular CEO. That idea might have legs????

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    2. office@antonyrichards.co.uk

      OTM has not let us down. It consistently provided more leads than RM (and Zoopla) which enabled us to ditch RM. It has saved us £000’s

       

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      1. HIT MAN

        revilo DECEMBER 10, 2019 AT 07:20#8 “The greatest threat to Rightmove is therefore collective action across the estate agency industry to communally break free of what has been described as ‘an abusive relationship” Wasn’t it called OnTheMarket? Oh, yeah, they let us down, quote!
         
        it’s the Agents that’s lets themselves down by not getting behind OTM, the principal was easy, promote OTM, list 24-48 before RM or Zoopla, choose one other portal and receive a discounted rate, Northeast and west Wales leading the way because they supported each other the majority have dropped RM and are now reaping the reward. You suckers are still fighting amongst each other.

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  6. EAMD172

    At the very least if every agent cancelled at least one of their additional products where possible, in December it would send a message. I’ve already done so.

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    1. industryview17

      Agents should collective starting pulling products and even look what services they actually require if at all. There three contract term products Enchanced, Optimiser & Optimiser 2020 all require you taking products that have no real tangible value, hence why they don’t force these onto the corporate clients only the independent. Consider reducing down to their essential package which is monthly. This does not mean its cheaper than their contract packages but does give you freedom to cancel with one month notice and decide on different options for your different offices, all of which you can’t do on there contract products. OTM has shown a vast improvement in its lead volume over the last 6 months and actually offers far better value for money than RM.  

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  7. Jrsteeve

    December is my firm’s last month with RM, 10 years as a customer means nothing. I asked the rep to get me an explanation of how another 10% hike was justified despite reduced sales and lower turnover following the fee ban. Still waiting.

    Bye bye RM!

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    1. NewsBoy

      Go for it. Congratulations.

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    2. surrey1

      Ditto. Enough is enough.

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  8. Yorkshire Agent

    As a residential agent, I have had enough and gave them notice in November, I am afraid enough is enough.  I could not think of a better time with the winter ahead and the current uncertainty with Brexit,  with little stock coming on, it is time to batton  down the hatches, and look to Onthemarket after having invested in it since its inception.  £25,000 a year into Rightmove alone with low stock levels is simply ridiculous with the recent promised increase, having simply no empathy for the state of this distressed industry and thought for their customers. For me this is the straw that has broken the camels back.  I have simply voted with my feet and now feel such relief not having to have to pay their bills through the winter months.  I am also a market leader in my area if this gives confidence for the others to do the same, the good for them.

     

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    1. Stuartb

      Arghhhh smartphones !   Thumbed you down in error !..   
      Well done.. we should all follow suit.

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  9. Stuartb

    Good article,  a symbiotic relationship is more my thoughts, host or parasite take your pick…… I also agree with the OP about that utter waste of money booklet, as I opened mine and fanned through the who gives a **** data I immediately fired it and it’s twin right into the bin. Maybe Goebbels isn’t dead after all..

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  10. The Blame Game

    Stop Press

    RIGHTMOVE COME OUT FIGHTING

    Ebenezer Scrooge appointed Head of Customer Relations…..read on!

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  11. Guy_Hodge

    I’m confused……

    Day after day I see vitriolic comments about Rightmove. But Advertising on Rightmove is neither compulsory or obligatory.

    Presumably you do it, as I did, because it bought you results. – It was an issue of assessing advertising spend over results and for me, there is no question that Rightmove generated better quality leads while Zoopla generated more. Both sites found me more buyers than any other source except For Sale boards.

    Unless you are a tree, you have the ability to move, so stop winging and get on with it.

    And why not grow a pair and post under your actual names rather than anonymously!

     

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    1. Anon

      I totally agree with everything you said.

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      1. AgencyInsider

        I see what you did there Anon. 🙂

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    2. Anonymous Coward

      Stop being rude about my screen name. 🙂
       
      I happen very much to like it and I’ve been using it for years.

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    3. Woodhen

      I disagree we only use RM because many of our LL’s insist on advertising through them and although we do not do so many Agents have the daft ability to promote themselves and web sites stating we “market through Rightmove” Some even write it into their contracts

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      1. Guy_Hodge

        So “Woodhen”, what you are saying is that you advertise on Rightmove because your competitors do – not because you have done a business plan and believe it to be a cost effective or valuable advertising resource?

        You have presumably done a cost analysis to work out what you spend and what you get back?

        You have assessed how much business you will lose to your competitors by not being on the site and decided that you need to stay on it?

        Just checking that I understand your rationale….

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  12. Sdaltaf101

    Stockholm syndrome

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    1. Property Pundit

      Oi, this is a rightmove thread, not PB! Come back on Thursday if you dare.

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  13. J1

    So we all enjoy a good PB and RM bashing session don’t we.  I do….

    The problem with all of this is the unequal rate card.  The big boys don’t pay the same as the one man bands (I get the scale discount argument).

    Until the corporate or regional agents come off then nothing will change.

    OTM is not then answer as it hasn’t any money; and the founder agents have made a truly spectacular job of sidestepping their own good intentions by not promoting it, allowing it to be floated and sticking with RM…….

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  14. scruffy

    I have no doubt that Rightmove has provided all its subscriber agents with leads. The issue is and has been their unremitting exploitation of their position to enforce annual extortionate price increases without any justification. This has been through periods when agents, their customers, have endured occasionally very difficult periods. Hardly a recipe for “customer love” we should now all be embracing.

    So as an industry we now, finally, realise that the quality and number of RM leads comes at an unjustifiable and stratospheric cost, the scene is set for a game change. .

    Guy_Hodge rightly recognises the leads that have come his way by the use of various portals. But as we each develop our own digital footprint still further, he should recognise the potential that exists through his own efforts, and perhaps re-focus his resources on winning business by recommendation and reputation, rather than rely upon the portals, such as the cold hearted machine that Rightmove became.

    I suspect that (like me) most subscribers to this post would rather not have their agency or position identified by giving their true name. This is not only for the sake and well-being of my staff and business partners,  it is also with the hope that such a forum can remain a place where we can, without financial consequence in this competitive environment, express our views on matters of mutual interest without the fear of undue consequence.

     

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  15. Robert_May

    It is nice to get a mention  but I’m not sure about being labelled  a disrupter. For sure I’m outspoken when it comes to how much Rightmove charge and  what they deliver, but that is just observation that over 1/4 of the industry are paying for a service their registers do not support. The  lunacy of  listing lettings with Rightmove baffles me – that is just  a convenience  hopefully this challenging market  will force an unnecessary spend to be reviewed.

    Disrupters do the same thing cheaper, if I was to copy Rightmove and do it cheaper I would be a disrupter,  I am not doing that; I am  doing different things and  looking to charge what that service is worth without excessive profits. If Rightmove copy that innovation  (as they are doing) they will be forced to charge in line with what the new technology commands.

     

    Right now Rightmove are  copying but they are looking to get agents to pay for the new service  what the old service cost. History dictates that technology makes things cheaper. If Rightmove shareholders can’t cope with that, it is time to find another  golden  goose

     

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    1. The Blame Game

      Well said Robert.

      Reference the golden goose, mine’s ready to produce “the eggs”

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  16. Marketshare

    We all know that migration away from Rightmove won’t happen overnight.  For the vast majority of us who don’t feel we can simply cancel our membership outright its time to take those first steps towards that goal.  The site is awash with Premium Displays, Featured Property adverts, Featured Agent banners, Microsites and many other ways of getting us to spend our money.

    Yes, we have a choice and yes we are sometimes our own worst enemy when it comes to what we mistakenly see as a competitive edge.  We have tracked the numerous featured Agent banners that we use primarily for New Homes marketing and some are costing between £25 and £50 per click whereas our social media campaigns are costing 15p per click.

    Rightmove is my biggest marketing cost, I spend a six-figure sum every year and I have no relationship with the company that happily receives my monthly direct debit.

    We have a network of 7 offices of which 4 are on the top end ‘Optimiser’ packages.  I will be emailing my rep today (actually that’s not true, I haven’t had a rep for some time now), I will email the area director to change all my offices to the basic package.

    For the past 2 years, we have moved back to a more personal approach. We actively encourage buyers to register on our own database as we delay launching all stock onto the portals for 2-weeks so that we can promote our new instructions ‘off-market’ to our own list of buyers. It’s by no means a radical approach but it works really well. Buyers need a reason to start registering with agents again rather than relying 100% on the portals.  When we had a rep they couldn’t get their head around why we wouldn’t want to upload our stock immediately.

    I will update my post late today with confirmation of my actions.

    If you have one New Years resolution then make it this, trim away all the excess and start the New Year not just financially better off but by taking back more control of your business and our industry.

    In fact, why not do it today then re-post here with your savings.  Good Luck and a Happy Christmas to you all.

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    1. Ouch18

      We’ve only ever been on basic packages since we opened five years ago and we use RM for sales only. No doubt whatsoever that this is all you need

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    2. JRK1121

      Completely agree with this. We also have multiple branches and have already given notice and removed many unnecessary  products. This should come into force in the next few weeks. We as a company certainly need to take a more centric approach to how we manage our database and leads. I’m sure there are many others the same.

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    3. NewsBoy

      Two weeks. Now there’s an idea!  That would certainly work well in this market.
       

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      1. HJ12

        Unfortunately I tried to do this and was told I have too much stock to reduce to their Essential package – this package will be made obsolete in the New Year and is only available for agents who have less then 10 stock???. Only Enhanced and Optimiser available – shows a high volume of agents have been cancelling their products, now they have made it impossible to do so. I have also tried to cancel my lettings but have been told I will only save £150. I am seriously considering this, the more I water down my RIM package the better.

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  17. KC54

    Personally I think the traditional portals will be cost prohibitive within 2-4 years – we are already seeing the signs.  There are many other channels of marketing opening up which are far more effective and those that ignore their own digital footprint moving forward do so at their peril.  Ask yourself how many vendors or Landlords do you get introduced to by the portals?  I thought not, yet that is the lifeblood of the business!  If you have the property available, you will be able to sell or let it – all the portals will give you leads as will other marketing channels in a more cost effective way.  Be open to change!

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  18. The Outsider

    You fail to mention that Jefferies represents Rightmove’s competitors and has skin in the game in downplaying their value.  

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    1. NewsBoy

      It says in the article – used to represent!

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  19. biffabear

    I have never taken any of RM’s additional products.  I sort of feel like I have been fighting against them myself here as my competitors throw more and more money at RM.

    It’s interesting reading the comments about cost per lead from RM vs say Facebook.  Indeed you are correct, we need to open eyes.

    Today, I don’t think I can quit RM as much as I want to. There are no agents around here, which have. But I have noticed I get more lettings leads from OnTheMarket than RM. So I am going to investigate quitting RM-lettings.  It will be a saving of sorts.

    Then I could go to zoopla for lettings only.  This was I am on all three portals, but for different services.

    What do you think?

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    1. NewsBoy

      It certainly looks worth a try and goes part way to reducing the Wrongmove influence.

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    2. Ouch18

      We only use OTM & ZOOPLA for lettings as well as our FB page and the amount and quality of leads we get is fantastic.

      Do it

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  20. Andrew Goldthorpe

    This article refers to Jefferies Investment Bank which has reviewed Rightmove and the UK portal market and decided RMV:LN is “under perform” with a target price of 500p. This is interesting, given the seemingly relentless rise of Rightmove’s market capitalisation to in excess of £5bn. I am not aware of how much, if any, skin in the game Jefferies or other investment banks have but I imagine most take a keen interest in the future of Rightmove with many commentators beginning to question how long RM can sustain its growth and model. The key takeaway, for any who care to listen, is their rationale which, in my opinion, should be taken as a clear signal to property professionals everywhere.  
     
    It boils down to “now is the time for agents to take collective action”. They see Rightmove as “a business with strong fundamentals, but the current housing market is impacting agents’ margins; under the current housing market conditions, they believe more agents will be forced to either exit the industry or sign introductory “free” contracts with competitors, which in turn puts pressure on Rightmove. They argue that Rightmove has reached “peak utility at the bottom of the cycle”.  
     
    In such a well-researched and widely distributed report by a leading investment bank, I am proud that PropertyMutual is the only Rightmove disruptor mentioned in the executive summary alongside the other two corporate portals (ZPG and OTM). It states, “It is really only the agent’s fear of losing an instruction from not being on Rightmove that holds back the churn – the greatest threat to Rightmove is therefore collective action across the estate agency industry to communally break free of what has been described as “an abusive relationship”. Unless Property Mutual rapidly can drive such groupthink, this isn’t imminently likely”. The report further says, “PropertyMutual has an incredibly disruptive blueprint that would take the agency-portal relationship all the way back to its pure-play mutual Root”.  
     
    “Groupthink” and “collective action” perfectly summarises PropertyMutual and is the business model we pitched to the RICS and NFoPP back in 2013, a whole two years before our noisy neighbour’s launched a competitor portal with big promises. Back in 2013, RICS naturally had to remain neutral but applauded our ethical, mutual business model. NFoPP told me a one other portal rule was “ridiculous” but did not back me. Disappointed, but believing in the long-term benefits of mutuality, we launched PropertyMutual as a free portal in 2014, keeping faith that agents would ultimately recognise PropertyMutual as the best tool for enabling collective action.  
     
    Jefferies states “Conditions are therefore ripe for existing competitors (Zoopla and OTM) but perhaps even better for a portal that can return the sector to its agency-back roots. There are two clear contenders vying to do exactly that – but both have a massive challenge on their hand to drive real change: PropertyMutual and Rummage4Property”.  
     
    It concludes that the situation created by Rightmove “is a self-created psychological handcuffs that can only be broken by collective action. OnTheMarket came with the model to do exactly that (agency-backed) but is on the course to undershooting its early potential. New entrants like PropertyMutual and Rummage4Property have exactly the construct needed to return the industry back to a sustainable agency-backed model. But the challenge is to drive collective action: we think the cycle could be about to do just that”.  
     
    It may be that you have not heard of PropertyMutual before today and that is the flip side of not locking our early adopters into long-term, restrictive and expensive contracts. We have not had millions to burn. The flip side of that is we have not had to de-mutualise, break any promises or principles nor sell the business to the Alternative Investment Market. Some may think our website a bit dated, but that is only superficial, and it would not take many members funding, owning and running us to add all the bells and whistles that modern consumers expect. Our profile has also not been helped by some elements of the free press refusing to run our press releases, or getting shot at for “advertising” whenever I leave comments. That is all to be expected, as portals have always been as emotive a subject as Brexit. I take no offence and it is to expected when you are going against the flow, so I have limited much of this comment to quoting from the report and our business model as transparently published on our website.  
     
    The only comment I make about PropertyMutual competitors, be they a corporate business like Rightmove, Zoopla or Onthemarket, a so called “free” portal or the latest subscriber based tech gimmick is that most, if not all, are either owned by external investors with an exit strategy; agent share ownership will always be diluted over time as shown by the record of Rightmove and Zoopla; and most if not all cannot claim to be 100% independent and free of any external investor influence. Most importantly, none of them are mutual.   Mutuality, because of its 100% independence now and forever, is the only business model that is committed to working solely in the best interests of its members and thus perfectly suited to delivering collective action.  
     
    So, the next time your contract with any of the corporate and non-mutual portals is up for renewal, I suggest you consider subscribing to PropertyMutual. Our subscriptions are currently nominal, will ultimately rise based on member numbers but only to the lowest possible cost to deliver a competitive service by a not-for-profit mutual, and are transparent and published on our website. Our low subscription means you don’t have to come off Rightmove yet, but you can start adding your voice to the collective voice from the minute you subscribe.  
     
    Also, why not ask your current provider one or all of the following: are they 100% independent or do they have external investors or shareholders; are they offering equity inducements and if so, why do they need to; are they making you sign long term lock in contracts that would make other industries blush, and why do they need to; are they a member of Social Enterprise UK, committed to gifting up to 50% of any surplus to social causes; do they listen to, take note of and implement their members wishes; do they use the Electoral Reform Commission to ensure their members are balloted on key strategic issues (we came up with one firm, one member, one vote); do they have a charitable assignment clause guaranteeing they cannot be sold to profit founders and investors; do they have one fee for all and publicly publish their staged subscriptions, ethics and principles; do they monetise your data by allowing third parties access to it or instead, do they curate, silo and safeguard their members data in a mutual data lake to guarantee only members benefit financially from their own data?  
     
    We believe PropertyMutual works for both leading estate agent businesses, independents, and organisations like FIA and PropertyMark. They could be working with us to ensure that our collective action retains its independence and integrity. Although not-for-profit, PropertyMutual is structured to deliver not only a collective voice for the property industry, but a successful consumer facing business that can also distribute a potentially large surplus back to its members in accordance with their vote.  
     
    PropertyMutual can rapidly deliver “groupthink” and is qualified to drive “collective action” on behalf of property professionals. Most importantly, we will always listen to and be our members partner in business.
     
    P.S. If you are interested in seeing the full Jefferies report, which is also a technical analysis of the UK portal sector, please contact me.

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    1. htsnom79

      Well written and well said, the sooner we get off this repetitive topic the better to do our jobs, it’s a website for gods sake, no more no less and the public will go where we put the stock.

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    2. PeeBee

      WOW!  Name-drop no less than FOURTEEN times!  A new record (but not one to be proud of) – professional spammers know to give up at two or three or deletion is inevitable.
       
      PropertyIndustryEye has an advertising rate cards available for your perusal, Mr Goldthorpe.
       
      Rather than sneaking freebies under the thin guise of a post, how’s about you pay the going rate?

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    3. Property Pundit

      Err, it’s still a No.

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  21. Coastalexpert

    Rightmove have such terrible relationships with agents. For the first time i think big cracks are appearing. I think 2020 will see a BIG change in the number of agents coming off RM.The sooner OTM gets its act together and agents get behind it the better.Watch this space……

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    1. HIT MAN

      It’s not down to OTM to get its act together it’s up to the stupid agents to get behind them and help themselves.. RMEXIT 

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    2. PeeBee

      HIT MAN

      With respect, I would suggest that ‘Coastalexpert’ is more than ‘qualified’ – and justified – to tell OTM to get its’ act together.

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  22. Trevor Gillham

    Just thought of a great new show for Sky. PortalWars.

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  23. Property Poke In The Eye

    Agents are slowly dismantling RM!!   About time.

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